Ballard Bridge work now expected to continue until early May

Painting the Ballard Bridge is really hard when it rains. Photo from SDOT

If you bike over the Ballard Bridge regularly, you are certainly well aware of the sidewalk closures that have been going on since November. Well, that work will not likely be done until early May.

The city is painting the bridge as a preservation method to prevent corrosion of the steel. However, painting work cannot be done in high rain or wind.

When one of the sidewalks is closed, no bicycling is allowed because there is not room on the extremely skinny sidewalks for people biking in opposite directions as well as everyone crossing on foot. You can walk your bike.

Also, the contractor will make sure traffic lanes are not closed during peak traffic times. But, as regular bridge users may have noticed, this does not apply to sidewalks. The contractor can close one of the sidewalks whenever they need it. So be ready to dismount or detour to the Locks or the Fremont Bridge until work is complete.

Many people have been contacting me through email and blog comments complaining that the contractors are not following the posted off-peak work schedule (not knowing that the schedule only applies to people driving). People seem to all have the same request: That they simply want to know when the sidewalks will be closed so they can plan their trip accordingly.

This seems like a reasonable request, especially if the city is going to take bicycle commuting seriously. An unexpected detour at a bridge can add a lot of time to a bicycle trip, not to mention added soaking if it is raining, etc.

May is Bike Month, and the contractor is confident that they will not need to close the southbound sidewalk for the morning commute in May. The number of people commuting by bicycle rises dramatically in May as fair weather commuters come back and others try it for the first time. Having unexpected closures is a concern as work on the bridge gets pushed further back.

There will also be some full weekend closures coming up. Stay tuned for more when those dates are announced.

Here are the detour maps depending on which sidewalk is closed:

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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10 Responses to Ballard Bridge work now expected to continue until early May

  1. Tom says:

    I live on Phinney Ridge and work in Magnolia so the Ballard Bridge is very important to me. As you said, knowing about a detour ahead of time could help me make good decisions on my bike commute. But if I get to the bridge and the sidewalk is closed, I’ll just take the lane and suffer the car honking behind me, rather than spending 20 minutes on a detour.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Yes, you can also ride across in the general travel lanes. However, please be aware that the metal grating surface is extremely slick when wet. Please, if you do this, be careful and be aware that braking can send you sliding to the ground if you are not careful. FWIW, I never bike on the grating because I don’t like it. But I especially don’t do it when it’s wet. Maybe it’s better with fat tires, I have need tried.

      • Martina says:

        I was really hesitant to cross the bridge in a lane, and actually found that it wasn’t as harrowing as I had expected. Yes, there’s honking, but in actuality, the Ballard Bridge is only about 1/5 grating. I agree to go carefully, but it’s important for cyclists to know that crossing the bridge is legal, short, and not all that bad! I put myself in the middle of the lane and drivers move around me.

      • Al Dimond says:

        My experience (in Chicago, where last I lived there there were bike lanes painted on the metal grating on a couple roads, and in Seattle on the Montlake and Fremont bridges) is that if the metal is dry it’s reasonably OK, and if it’s wet it’s an adventure. I bet it’s very dependent on tires, too… I’ve never tried on anything but 25s around 90PSI.

        Anyone that honks at a cyclist for riding in the exact proper manner on a stretch of road that short when there are two full other lanes they can pass you in doesn’t even deserve to be regarded by obscene gestures.

  2. Mike says:

    I just sent an email to SDOT about this issue. Here’s the contact information if you want to do the same:

    [email protected]
    [email protected]

  3. Kirk from Ballard says:

    When I find the west sidewalk closed on my morning southbound commute, I just loop under the bridge and take the east sidewalk. On the other end of the bridge, loop under the bridge by taking West Nickerson and 13th Ave. W to the new trail and head up Emmerson to Gilman southbound. It might add five minutes at the most. Passing on either the east or west sidewalk is the same. For uncoming cyclists, one or both has to stop.

  4. Brad Hawkins says:

    I’ve been riding it northbound during the mid day and found the blocked off lane to be absolutely perfect. Just noodle between the pylons and away you go. The sign trailers and pickups cause only a momentary disturbance.

    But it’s true. SDOT doesn’t really care about cycling as transportation on this route. If they did something pro-active, people would just blame McGinn.

  5. jdg says:

    traveling on the the other side of cones/pylons is illegal and you might get a moving violation (i know this first hand)

  6. Daniel says:

    Not one bicyclist got off and walked around or by me. Every one of them just hollered at me ‘on your right”. I couldn’t hear them until they were right at my shoulder as they brushed by.

  7. Seth says:

    Daniel – Sorry to hear of your experience. In my opinion the sidewalk is narrow enough in places where getting off the bike to pass could be difficult but at the least I think waiting for some acknowledgment from pedestrians before passing is common courtesy.

    That said, getting this kind of feedback is sometimes difficult. I’ve found the majority of pedestrians on the bridge very aware of their surroundings, and happy to allow me to pass, but when headphones are cranked it can be difficult to make my presence known. Really frustrating to have to raise my voice (often causing people to jump out of their skins) just to say “Excuse me. Mind if I pass by?”

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